Nuclear Conference Presided by Brazil Ends All Talk and No Teeth

A conference at the United Nations to review the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) ended May 27 having accomplished "very little" amid what its President said were widely diverging views tackling nuclear arms and their spread.

Ambassador Sérgio Duarte of Brazil, President of the 2005 NPT Review Conference told a press briefing that although the month-long conference had accomplished very little in terms of results, agreements or final decisions, there had nevertheless been some progress "in the ways issues were discussed and the interest that delegations had shown in those discussions and...documents presented."

A spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement the UN chief "very much regrets" that the meeting closed without substantive agreement, noting that the States parties "missed a vital opportunity to strengthen our collective security against the many nuclear threats to which all States and all peoples are vulnerable."

While the vast majority of NPT States parties recognize the Treaty's enduring benefits, "the Secretary-General warns that their inability to strengthen their collective efforts is bound to weaken the Treaty and the broader NPT-based regime over time," the statement said.

Mr. Annan noted that countries will have a unique opportunity to renew those efforts in September, when more than 170 Heads of State and Government convene in New York to adopt a wide-ranging agenda to advance development, security and human rights.

Ambassador Duarte said it was perhaps too early to tell, when asked if the failure of the conference has undermined the 35-year-old accord. "We'll have to wait and see," he added.

The Conference of State parties to the NPT meets every five years to review the landmark accord, which seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons technology, foster the peaceful use of nuclear energy and further the goal of general and complete disarmament.

Adherence to the NPT by 188 countries, including the five nuclear-weapon States, renders it the most widely adhered-to multilateral disarmament instrument.

This year, the Conference was nearly half way through its work before the parties decided on an agenda, and on the eve of the final day, its three main committees failed tp agree on the texts covering the so-called three pillars of the NPT - disarmament, verification of safeguards on national nuclear programs and the peaceful use of atomic energy.

Ambassador Duarte said he had decided against making a final statement during the Conference's wrap-up plenary because he felt it would have been difficult in light of the "wide divergence of views" among the States parties.

Asked if he could explain why there had been so little progress this year, he said: "You can probably write several books on why the conference did not reach agreement."

He added that it would take longer than a press conference to unravel that question, but mainly, it had been due to the lack of convergence of views on the best ways to achieve the objectives of the Treaty.

The Ambassador stressed, however, that whatever the results, it had been very important that delegations got together to discuss their national issues and interests. "So it's perhaps premature to say that this is a failure."

United Nations - www.un.org

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